Bilkis Bano Case: SC Notice To Gujarat Govt On Plea Against Remission Of 11 Convicts

New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Gujarat government on a plea challenging the remission granted by the State to 11 convicts who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and murdered her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.

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New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Gujarat government on a plea challenging the remission granted by the State to 11 convicts who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and murdered her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.

A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath sought a response from the Gujarat government and posted it for hearing after two weeks. 

It also asked petitioners to make 11 convicts party in the case. During the hearing, Justice Rastogi observed that the question here is under which Gujarat rules are the convicts entitled to remission or not and whether there was an application of mind in this case while granting remission.

The apex court in its order stated, “Issue notice. File your reply. We direct the 11 convicts to be impleaded in the case.”

The plea before the apex court was filed by members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, and social activist and professor Roop Rekha Verma.

The plea sought setting aside of order granting remission to 11 convicts and directing their immediate re-arrest.

“It is submitted that it would appear that the constitution of members of the competent authority of the Gujarat government also bore allegiance to a political party, and also were sitting MLAs. As such, it would appear that the competent authority was not an authority that was entirely independent, and one that could independently apply its mind to the facts at hand,” the plea stated.

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has also moved the apex court against the early release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

The plea filed by three women said they have challenged the order of competent authority of the government of Gujarat by way of which 11 persons who were accused in a set of heinous offences committed in Gujarat were allowed to walk free on August 15, 2022, pursuant to remission being extended to them.

“The 11 persons were sentenced to life imprisonment for commission of the offences of, inter alia, gang-rape and murder of multiple people during the large-scale communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 on January 18, 2008, passed by the Sessions Court in Greater Mumbai and the conviction was upheld by way of Judgment dated May 4, 2017 passed by High Court of Mumbai,” the petition stated.

The petition said the case which led to the conviction of the 11 convicts was investigated by the CBI, accordingly, the grant of remission solely by the Gujarat government without any consultation with the Central government is impermissible in terms of the mandate of Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

“The remission in this heinous case would be entirely against public interest and would shock the collective public conscience, as also be entirely against the interests of the victim (whose family has publicly made statements worrying for her safety),” read the plea.
The plea further added, “It is submitted that on such facts (facts of the case), no right thinking authority applying any test under any extant policy would consider it fit to grant remission to persons who are found to have been involved in the commission of such gruesome acts.”

The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on August 15.

Meanwhile, all the 11 life-term convicts in the case were released as per the remission policy prevalent in Gujarat at the time of their conviction in 2008.

In March 2002 during the post-Godhra riots, Bano was allegedly gang-raped and left to die with 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. She was five months pregnant when rioters attacked her family in Vadodara.

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